Friday, June 29, 2012

I get fit! part two: I do step and tone classes!

So I'm writing this on a Friday evening, almost a full week after my first get fit class. How did I find it? Well, I'm still alive, and my legs are slowly returning to their normal size and temperature. I'm going again on Monday and I hope to survive, but I can't promise anything. Here's what happened:

On Monday evening, my younger sister and self-appointed personal trainer asked me to tag along to her night class. Apparently, one could burn off about 400 calories, it wasn't that hard and I'd feel good after it. Not wanting to muss up my new hair by swimming, I decided to give it a shot. It was...interesting, to say the least. I arrived into the class five minutes late, clutching my iPod and a bottle of water. Having been in the gym for a bit beforehand and then having to run up three flights of stairs, I was pink faced and panting. Ah, the joys of muscle wastage during the Leaving! 

The room itself was like a typical "dance studio" - bright pink, wooden and full of women. Big women in voluminous grey tracksuits. Little, almost women in short, tight tracksuit bottoms and purple vest tops. A few people around my age who looked either super fit or super uncomfortable, and a few mammy types as well. All in all, an eclectic bunch, but this didn't make the room any less intimidating. "Jesus Chriiiiiiiiiiist, Eimear, I'm going to kill you for this\!" I thought, particularly when I spotted the trainer, an impossibly toned, Lycra clad, tanned lady who was dragging steps around like they were pillows. Everyone else was ready to go: I lumbered to the only spot left in the room The one spot no one dares to seek out. 

 Front and center. 

Think about that for a moment. Your first exercise class in about five years, and you have a room full of lithe sixteen year olds and superfit ladies forced to watch your arse wobble in a bad, bad pair of tracksuit bottoms. Not exactly an easy intro to the exercise world. However, I decided that I was there now and I might as well give it a go. This "fuck it, be grand" attitude is something I really ought to try more of. The class started when the trainer switched on the peppy, poppy, loud music and yelled at us to warm up. "okay. Warms up. Stretching and jogging. I can do that!" I figured. Easy peasy. I wasn't that unfit. 

Hahahahahahaha. Laugh, dear reader, as you sit at your computer. Go on, enjoy my naivety. It turns out that "warm ups" these days are the same as the rest of it: HARD! I spent the first ten minutes sweaty and confused, kicking legs and moving arms at total random. I eventually caught on - the premise of step and tone is simple enough.  You are given a step, and you stand on it in a variety of ways. It's very fast, and sometimes arm swinging is involved. I was okay at it all provided it wasn't too complex: my lack of co-ordination caught me out more than my general lack of health. 

One particular move astounded me: side stepping onto the step, lunging and swinging your arms. WHAT?!?! I am not Michael Jackson! I am not Rihanna! I just came here to become more human shaped, not become a backup dancer! My god, it was more like dancing than the gym. I was red-faced, sweaty and gasping for breath after 15 minutes, and when my sister's friend fell and hurt her ankle, a sick part of me was grateful that I no longer had to move my poor legs. I spent the next 15 minutes stretching out, hoping I wouldn't hurt the next day. I didn't hurt the next day - I hurt for the next five. 

You know, reading back over this post makes it sound like I had an awful time: I didn't! I'll be honest, I felt great when I'd finished. Super proud of myself for surviving and all doped up on endorphin. The instructor, though a bit scary, was nice and generally let me do my own thing when I ended up using my left foot instead of my right. As I said, lack of co-ordination. Fun times. Next week, I will drag someone with me, though: it's a bit scary to do all alone. I'll also be arriving about 40 minutes early to grab that coveted step at the back...

Fitness as of now: 

I am the lady on the right. I miss chocolate. Lovin' the exercise thing though :)

I get fit! part one: an introduction

Evening, everyone. I'm back blogging again after a pretty rollercoaster week of finishing exams (!), nightclubbing, partying and jumping around like an idiot to Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, with my Much Anticipated Post LEaving Cert. Week Of Fun out of the way, I've found myself quite bereft of a...project. Sure, I have stuff to do. My CDs need sorting, my room is a mess, my CAO, etc. etc. But this summer I'd like to have a big focus. Something to work on - and for the first time in a loooooooong time, it's not education related. Quite the opposite for me: instead of sitting at a desk, munching toast, I am getting fit.
Le gasp!

Yeah, I've decided that this summer, as opposed to trying to lose weight or drop a dress size, I'm going to be able to run by August. I want to be able to go to the gym without looking like Tomato Lady. Yes, I'm hoping I can shed a subtle 20lbs on my way, but it's not my main goal. So, first up on the plan: exercise. Something I've always had a little bit of a love-hate relationship with. No kidding, there are home videos of me whining about having to go outside to walk around. I'm about three. Yet I have every intention of changing that. I can swim, I can walk for miles and I want to be able to dance without looking like a total weirdo. 

What's all this got to do with my blog? Why am I blogging about it? What the hell is the point, Áine? It's simple really: I've tried diets and junk before and they have never worked out too well. I suspect that if people read my posts (or comment...! God forgive me but I love a good comment) I'll be super motivated and energetic. Won't that be nice? I hope so. That's what I envision the posts to be. Here's what they won't be: 

  • "Thinspiration". God, I fucking hate that word. I hate the whole world of ABC diets, calorie counting and this idea that thighs touching means that you're as sexy as the aliens from Alien. No. This will not fly with me. 
  • Boring. I plan to write about my plans to get fit in a humorous way more than anything. Laughing at myself with others is something I'm good at, plus I have a feeling there will be some pretty funny incidents involving me and sport! I'm never going to be an Olympic athelete or a Baywatch type, so I might as well try and get a few giggles out of my tracksuit escapades.
  • Obsessive. Don't expect me to blog about exercise 24/7. Now that my exams are finished, I have a zillion and one ideas for stuff to write about, from short stories to blogs to (hopefully!) a film script. I'm not going to write about exercising unless something cool or funny happens.
So that's my plan for Summer 2012. Get fit. How? Well, I haven't a bloody clue to be honest. Walking, step and tone classes, swimming and yoga, if I can find classes. Wish me luck!

About to go "running". Hair trussed up and all! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Paddy K and the Leaving.

I wrote this around Christmas time and for some reason it stayed stagnant in my drafts. I don't know why. I think it's quite a nice post. In the spirit of today being my second last day as a Leaving Cert. student, I think I'll post it. I promise stuff that isn't about exams as soon as I finish!

We studied Patrick Kavanagh in English class in sixth year, and while I wasn't enchanted with him like I was with Heaney or Rich, I did love the poem "Advent". In the poem, he talks about self-denial and other lovely Catholic ideas (no), but he does open with this charming and wise couplet:

"We have tested and tasted too much, lover/Through a chink through wide, there comes in no wonder"

When we did this poem in class, racist jokes were made, but that's not the point. I hate the idea of Catholic guilt but Kavanagh was onto something here. A chink too wide, comes in no wonder. Life gets very dull and monotonous very quickly if you're exposed to the crazy stuff all the time. Take this school year: Leaving Certificate year. The chink has become too wide, forced open by Home Economics notes, maths equations and Irish essays. Nothing I learn surprises me or interests me because the chink has been blown open, creating a huge chasm which I have to fill with really boring knowledge, like the Modh Conniollach and Simpson's Rule.

I tried to cram it all into my head (well, more or less. Thank you Biology.) and thus, there was  no room for wonder this year thanks to the unwieldy behemoth of the Leaving. I needed big things - a week off school, a party, way too much blue WKD - to cancel out the relentless slog of this year. Unfortunately, that sort of thing was thin on the ground, particularly when I got used to the Blue WKD. The little things that make me happy - or used to - no longer do so. Which is a bummer, because I used to be the sort of person who loved little things. A free class used to mean chatting and not cramming. A clean room used to matter because I got to stay in there. A phonecall used to make me happy, instead of an excuse to bitch and moan about the breadth of the History course. Little things are now met with a kind of "okay...great..." radiating from my very being.

Unless you count the wonder of a new refill pad or finding your purple biro after a three month absence. Or actually being able to do my maths homework - this happened last week, and hasn't since October. Or a particularly funny history class. A good speaker for Religion. No study on a weekday. Maybe the little things that make me happy haven't vanished, they've just...shifted slightly. Changed. School-related little things for a school related life. I miss normality, though. That might sound self pitying and over dramatic, but life hasn't been normal this year, not with friends telling me just how close exams are on a regular basis. Not with more rows chez-moi than ever before. But I guess I can't complain, considering how near the end I am. I'll probably look back on these posts from my wonder-filled life and wonder what the hell I'm on about.

Or at least that was the case. As of writing, it's the 19th June, and my summer holidays are just around the corner. Life has a funny way or surprising you - I looked at that paragraph up there, nose wrinkled, and went "really? REALLY, Áine? Life was that bad, was it? Grow up!" but the fact is that it sucked. I couldn't see the little things because the big things (aka exams) took over my life. With this sage knowledge, I look forward to a summer filled with little things that make a big difference. Big things have small beginnings, to quote Prometheus. But that's another blogpost.

Maybe the trick with wonder is to look for it. Maybe I have to stop passively noticing and start working at happiness. Go out and find things to marvel at. Have adventures. Through a chink through wide there comes in no wonder - but through a chink too narrow there comes in none, either. In lieu of that, here is my list of small things that made me happy throughout the last year: 
  • Phonecalls with David.
  • Going to the gym.
  • Lemon traybake.
  • Zoe's baking.
  • Red and cream spotted underwear sets.
  • White Apple earphones.
  • The Hunger Games.
  • Swimming.
  • Doctor Who.
  • Sunlight freckling my face at the bus stop.
  • Going without a jacket.
  • New friends.
  • Seamus Heaney's love poetry.
  • Writing something really good in class.
  • The Big Lebowski.
  • Sunday evenings in my granny's house.
  • Babysitting a three year old.
  • Long hair.
  • Rum.
  • My history research project. That was fun.
  • iPhones.
  • Sporadic blogging.
  • Caitlin Moran's twitter.
  • Twitter in general, and my little bunch of LC themed followers. 
And above all...
  • Knowing that someday soon, the Leaving will be over. And real life cthe day after tomorrow at 12.30pm.
  • Just around the corner.

Have some LCD Soundsystem. Party music.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I got 99 Problems, and the CAO is all of them.

Motivational LC music of the day. 
Ten down, one to go. Seven good exams and three awful ones. One particularly lovely History paper.  All that stands between me and the best of summers is Agricultural Science at 9.30am on Thursday. Then I shall be free. Free to dance, to drink, to have adventures...and to panic about colleges, courses and points. Yes, I am just that lame. I have every intention of having an amazing summer, don't get me wrong...but it's going to stay in the back of my mind, I can tell. Or maybe that's the hangover talking, but I digress. Here's why.
For a start, as my CAO stands, I have three 500+ points courses at the top. All in Trinity (it's easy to get to being my main reason to want to go. That and - come on - it's pretty.) and all involving English, History, Politics or Sociology. So far, so groovy. Yet there's a problem. I've done 10/11 exams now - and I don't think I got the points for any of these courses. History and Sociology maybe - it's 505 - but I can't be sure, particularly with the GODDAMNED MOTHERFUCKING POINTS INFLATION we have to deal with. So yeah, I'm in a little bit of a points pickle, and like all things, I find them easier to deal with when they're written in size 14 Times New Roman. Also when they are bullet pointed.

  • My fourth choice is Galway to do Human Rights and Arts - amazing, right? Probably my dream course. Human Rights, History, English and something else. Something silly, like Greek or Philosophy. Lovely stuff. The only catch is, you know...Galway. It's fierce far away. Three hours on a train and let's not get into the expense of living up there. Plus, I've got friends, family and a lovely boyfriend in the Pale. I'm not quite ready to give that up, to be honest. I'm only eighteen.
  • I'll be blunt: I am too lazy to trek to UCD, DCU or anywhere else that's not just a bus ride away. 6am starts? No thanks. I'd crack up.
  • I've wanted to go to Trinity since the age of six or so. It's so big and historic, it's always appealed to me. The points are just too damn high. Seriously. 535+  to do English and History? Not fair, Trinners. Not fair...I guess I'm just not a winner, huh?
The rest of my CAO is filled up with Arts courses and courses my parents would have a fit over - English, Media and Cultural Studies still sounds like a bant, but I don't see my parents paying two grand for that. I've never had to make such a huge decision before and it's been a source of terror since January. Terror and tears. I still have no idea what career I want - journalism, lecturing or maybe research - so I want to keep my degree as general as possible, as well as as near a city as possible. Oh well, maybe I'll shock myself and get 580 in August! Time will tell, I guess. Maybe I'll pull an A1 out of Ag. Science and all will be well. The only thing I'm certain about is how good a summer I'll have....provided it stops raining! 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

So, what's your damage?

So, I'm three days and four exams in. Home Economics over forever, maths paper one (algebra, calculus and graphs) and other such lovelies over forever too. In a manner of speaking, because I'm sure I'll be waking up in the middle of the night screaming the properties of sugar for the next month or two, but how and ever...

English One was a fantastic paper. I hate to sound lame, but I almost enjoyed it - I did a persuasive speech on the importance of literature and it was essentially a culmination of fourteen years of devouring books into a six page essay. If I don't get an A1, I'll be after the SEC's children. I love English paper I because it's almost creative - I just went in and had the bants, really, no study needed at all! Unfortunately, it quickly gave way to Home Economics, a subject I had spend hours despairing over all year. Did you know that Home Ec. has a 3% A1 rate? Well, guess what, I'm not part of that 2-3%. Such is life - I relied far too much on common knowledge, which will either cause me to do very well or fail. I really hope it's the former...
The strange thing about the first day was that it didn't feel like my Leaving Cert. English felt fun, like writing on a blog or for homework. Home Ec. didn't feel like an exam, mainly because the paper was damn stupid. Still, better than two rock hard papers to reduce me to tears, wha?

No, day two was the one for the rock-hard papers and, more crucially, the tears. English paper II. Can you imagine the feeling between being given that paper and opening it? If you can't, well it's similar to a certain scene in a certain blockbuster that's soundtracked by this:


Of course, when my lovely examiner uttered the dreaded "you can begin", I have never moved so fast. I looked at them for 30 seconds or so, but barely took in the Hamlet and Comparative questions. No, I was after the big'un: prescribed poetry, 50 marks. Would my lovely Heaney be up? Would Sylvia, who I'd done a good seven essays on be up? Would my watching of "Out Of The Marvellous" and reading of "The Bell Jar" be worth it? In short: no. Unless you're talking about the enjoyment I got from studying two great poets, it wasn't. No Plath. No Heaney. I gasped in the middle of the exam when I saw who was there:
Day 148 - 7th June 2012

In case you've never spoken to me for more than ten minutes before, Adrienne Rich was my favourite aspect of LC English. She also made me a femnist, which I'll write about someday, so obviously I was delighted to see her! My only issue with Rich is that I tend to run away with myself, but after an hour and a half and six pages, I had finished up LC English on a damn good Rich essay. Didn't stop me feeling awful for the rest of the country though....

Got my comeuppance in Maths yesterday, where I possibly scraped a C3. The paper was ridiculous - I still can't figure out some of the questions! Paper two won't bring my grade up either, but hey, what can you do...I've survived this far. I have six consecutive exams next week, which won't be fun, but then I'll be (almost) free to blog to my heart's content!

See you then :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

It begins.

So, it's the night before the Leaving Cert. The hallowed night that I imagined would involve lots of crying, screaming, frantic Home Economics learning and chocolate. Save for two Lily O'Briens, none of this has come to fruition - weird, huh?
Like everyone else in the country, I'm opening English paper one tomorrow morning. I'm not too worried - English is one of my better subjects, and I have enough opinions to ensure that a personal essay or magazine article goes my way. I've even half planned one on sport, should the worst come to the worst! Like everybody, I'm dreading paper two, but I'm sure I'll surivive it. Home Economics is a different story. Two and three are big numbers for Home Ec. - the number of hours, the number of sections on the exam, and the percentages for A1s. Me being the kamikaze that I am, I'm going to try damn hard to be that 2/3 out of one hundred. How hard can it be? I've worked my ass off on Home Ec. so I'm just praying for a decent paper, along with a decent paper for everything else!
Speaking of prayer, at this stage I have a grand total of three sets of candles, four masses and a hell of a lot of prayers to various saints going for me, notably St. Jude and Joseph of Cupertino. St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless cases - sincerely hoping that that was a joke! My parents and grandparents think otherwise, but to be honest, I'm on my own - Jesus can't help me now. Just my left handed, ergonomic pen. Fantastic! It's a very Irish thing to have prayers said for you, isn't it? Danielle has nine candles, I think: "one for each subject and two for luck." Ain't she a fortunate one?
Hopefully I'll get back to blogging in 16 short days once everything is over. I'm getting a little nervous watching the RTÉ report. It's all so real now. Fourteen years of study and bam, I have seven days to prove it. Sure, if all the years before me have survived it, so can I..

Good luck to everyone sitting papers tomorrow, both Junior and Leaving Cert. Destroy it. Enjoy it. Let the points roll!